Last month Jim and I were at the Mission Summit of the American Baptist Churches, USA and had a chance to connect with denominational friends and colleagues from across the country. These conferences allow American Baptists to worship, fellowship, network, share resources and partner together in ministry. I returned home excited about the work of our denomination and feeling like Lakeshore is in good company. Here are a few highlights of my time at the Mission Summit.
Theologian’s Conference – I spent a day listening to theologians address the church’s role as public witness. Through the topics of welcome, baptism, storytelling, social media and evangelism we were challenged to claim the gospel of love, forgiveness and inclusion. The church is called to proclaim the good news and our corporate worship to embrace the good news, yet we have inherited limited traditions and limiting rituals; we need to continually reflect upon how we worship to ensure that we can best connect with Who we worship and how our worship shapes our theology.
American Baptist Home Mission Society – ABHMS is the parent group that organized our mission trip to New Orleans last year and this year. The leader of this endeavor, Vickie Goff, was pleased to show me the 2016 ABHMS annual report, in which two teens from Lakeshore were featured sharing what their trip to NOLA meant to them. I look forward to partnering with ABHMS again in early August.
Space for Grace provided an outlet for young artists and musicians to share the gospel through the mediums of sight, sound, emotion and beauty. God’s Spirit moved in unique ways as we celebrated God through the arts and affirmed the power of creativity to connect us to the divine.
Prayer Spiral – A large room provided a labyrinth-like spiral made from luminaries that celebrated those whose faith has shaped our own. As I walked the spiral, I gave thanks for the generations who have gone before me and my contemporaries who walk alongside me, all of whom have shaped me in significant ways. In the center, I claimed the words “No one is you, that is your gift.” May we honor the gifts of others, and embrace our own gifts that shape our faith.
I am proud to be American Baptist and to draw strength and spiritual guidance from my denomination.